In the past few years there has been a noticeable shift in shifting on mountain bikes. Once uncommon and often cobbled together, “1x” or single ring chain-ring setups mated to 9 or 10 speed cassettes have become much more common. These days if you are shopping for a decent new mountain bike you’re more likely to see a 1x drive train than a triple, and with good reason. 1x setups are lighter, easier to maintain, and, by design, more reliable.
A few years back Sram came to the bike market with their XX1 drive train and all at once made 1x a seriously viable option for even the highest end bikes. By combining two important bits of tech they took 1x out of “kludge” territory into the mainstream. The only drawback at the time was price. Not only did Sram only introduce this tech at their top level of parts, but they also required a new hub standard and a proprietary crank jacking the price up further. A few years on, this has changed as the two key pieces of tech in the XX1 drivetrain system have trickled down to much more reasonably priced levels.
The “type-2” or “clutch" style derailleur is one of the two advancements. In a nutshell the clutch derailleur keeps the chain from bouncing around thanks to a nifty bit of hidden engineering and as a result, way less likely to skip off the chainring or chainrings.
The specially machined “narrow-wide” tooth profile, like the one on this Race Face chain ring, is the other key bit of tech that makes this system work. These special shapes result in a snugger fit with the chain. Combining the narrow ride ring with a clutch derailleur makes it almost impossible to drop a chain in all but the most extreme riding conditions without any extra parts to fiddle with. Of course, the best part is that all of this is now quite a bit more affordable. Our friend Fisher took advantage of this and chose to upgrade the old and worn triple/9 speed system on a nice used Cannondale mountain bike he picked up to the exact setup shown above.
For just $250 (including labor) he set up his bike with a narrow wide ring, clutch derailleur, 10 speed shifter, new chain, and new cassette. His bike is perfectly set up for the local trails, running smooth, and even a bit lighter. For anyone interested in making this same upgrade, this same setup can be installed on just about any modern mountain bike.